Itchy Skin
Causes, Related Conditions, Questions & Related Topics


Top 8 Itchy Skin Causes

1. Fungal infection

Fungal infections are a common cause of itchy skin. These infections are contagious and can spread quickly through public places, such as schools and dormitories.[1] Fungal infections can affect people of all ages, but they're especially common in children and adolescents. These infections usually don't pose a serious health risk, but they can be uncomfortable and sometimes require prescription medication.

2. Insect bites

Insect bites occur after spending a lot of time outdoors. You may be more likely to experience insect bites during the spring and summer when the weather is warm, but some insects thrive year-round. Parasitic insects like lice or bedbugs can also cause itchy skin.[2] You can catch lice or bedbugs even if you don't spend time outdoors.

3. Allergies

Allergic reactions often cause itchy skin or rashes. Common allergens include pollen, animal dander, toxic plants, and some personal care items. You might also develop a rash or itchy skin after exposure to certain foods or medications.[3]

4. Autoimmune conditions

Many autoimmune conditions cause rashes or skin irritation. These conditions are not contagious, but they can cause serious discomfort.[4] Autoimmune diseases can be challenging to treat. A specialist can provide expert advice on managing your autoimmune condition.

5. Nerve disorders

Nerve disorders sometimes trigger intense itching, tingling, or skin prickling.[3] These symptoms may appear even if you don't have a visible rash. Itching caused by nerve problems might be limited to one area or spread across your entire body.

6. Viral infections

Many viral infections can cause an itchy rash. Common viral infections include chickenpox, fifth disease, and measles.[2] These diseases are particularly common among children, but many viral infections can be prevented through immunization.

7. Bacterial infections

Bacterial skin infections are highly contagious. Left untreated, some of these infections can cause permanent skin damage. Some may even be fatal.[5] Fortunately, most bacterial infections can be cured with antibiotics. However, prompt treatment is essential. See a doctor right away if you suspect a bacterial infection.

8. Dry skin

You may notice that your skin gets itchy when the weather is dry. Dry skin can cause skin flaking, peeling, or itching.[2] A moisturizer or hydrating lotion can help soothe dry skin. A humidifier can also provide some relief for people living or working in a dry climate.

Possible Health Conditions Related to Itchy Skin

1. Shingles

Shingles is caused by the herpes zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. When a person catches chickenpox, the virus may remain dormant in their body. It can then reawaken years later and cause an itchy, painful rash known as shingles. Shingles can be difficult to treat and may reoccur several times, but vaccines can help reduce your chances of experiencing future shingles outbreaks.[6]

2. Eczema

Eczema is a common skin condition that may cause an itchy rash. This condition is usually caused by an allergic reaction or an autoimmune disease.[7] Eczema is not contagious, and it's typically not a sign of a serious health problem, but it can be quite uncomfortable. Your doctor can suggest treatments to relieve your itching caused by eczema.

3. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is another chronic skin condition caused by an immune response. Like eczema, psoriasis is not contagious. Instead, it's caused by an overactive immune system. If you have psoriasis, your symptoms may come and go. You may also be at risk for certain health problems in the future, such as psoriatic arthritis,[8] but treatment can help suppress your immune system and prevent outbreaks.

4. Liver disease

Liver disease is sometimes linked to itchy skin.[2] Doctors are not sure why liver disease may cause skin irritation, but they believe that reduced liver function allows certain substances to build up in your blood. If these substances aren't flushed out of your body, they can make you feel itchy. Liver disease can sometimes be life-threatening. Along with itchy skin, people with liver disease often develop jaundice, or yellowing of the skin or eyes.[9] See a doctor right away if you suspect you might have liver disease.

5. Kidney disease

In rare cases, itchy skin can be a sign of kidney disease. Your kidneys help remove waste products from your blood, but if they're not working well, waste products can build up in your bloodstream and trigger itching. If you have diabetes or heart disease, you may be at a higher risk for kidney problems.[10] Tell your doctor if you have unexplained itching or other symptoms of kidney disease.

6. Thyroid disease

Thyroid disease is often linked to dry skin, which may cause itchiness.[11] Some thyroid conditions are also linked to autoimmune diseases, which may cause nerve problems. These nerve disorders can also cause itchy skin.

7. Pregnancy

Pregnancy can take a toll on your body. During pregnancy, your skin is often forced to stretch to make room for the growing baby. The stretched skin around your belly, breasts, and hips can become very itchy. Some pregnant women experience itching in other areas as well. In most cases, these symptoms are normal and not a cause for concern, but if the itching is especially bad, your OB/GYN can recommend creams and lotions that may make you more comfortable.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Itchy Skin

  • When did your symptoms begin?
  • Do you have a rash? Where is the rash located?
  • Do you have a fever or other symptoms of infection?
  • Have you recently been around anyone who is ill?
  • Are you up to date with your immunizations?
  • Have you recently spent a lot of time outdoors?
  • If you spend time outdoors, do you use insect repellent?
  • Have you ever had chickenpox?

Itchy Skin May Also be Known as:

  • Pruritis

References:

  1. WebMD. Fungal infections of the skin. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/fungal-infections-skin#1
  2. American Academy of Dermatology. 10 reasons your skin itches uncontrollably and how to get relief https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/itchy-skin/skin-itches-uncontrollably
  3. Mayo Clinic. Itchy skin: Symptoms & causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/itchy-skin/symptoms-causes/syc-20355006
  4. Merch Manual. Autoimmune disorders. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/immune-disorders/allergic-reactions-and-other-hypersensitivity-disorders/autoimmune-disorders
  5. American Family Physician. Common bacterial skin infections. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0701/p119.html
  6. Mayo Clinic. Shingles: Symptoms & causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/symptoms-causes/syc-20353054
  7. Mayo Clinic. Atopic dermatitis (eczema): Symptoms & causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atopic-dermatitis-eczema/symptoms-causes/syc-20353273
  8. Mayo Clinic. Psoriasis: Symptoms & causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriasis/symptoms-causes/syc-20355840
  9. Mayo Clinic. Liver disease: Symptoms & causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/liver-problems/symptoms-causes/syc-20374502
  10. LiveWell. Are your kidneys working? Recognizing and preventing chronic kidney disease: a silent epidemic. https://www.unitypoint.org/livewell/article.aspx?id=0dde66ab-6c21-40e8-ae12-b7090458f004
  11. Healthline. 10 signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/hypothyroidism-symptoms

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